What's most striking to me about recent events in the Middle East is how just about all the experts – the administration deep thinkers, their Republican critics, the academics and the foreign policy talking heads – failed to predict the seismic forces that are reshaping the region in ways we can't begin to fathom.
This isn't a matter of partisan politics. The Obama administration is clearly clueless about a region in turmoil, but I haven't heard anything resembling acumen from the Republicans, either.
File this under “duh”: on Sunday the New York Times reported that “ Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars
On one hand, this weekend's WikiLeaks dump of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables was a letdown after all the media hype. There were lots of interesting bits and pieces, few bombshells.
A nervous Israel, it seems, will come away from the information avalanche without much diplomatic damage – not like Saudi Arabia, perhaps, which was revealed to be pushing for a U.S. attack to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.
We just posted a JTA story about a bipartisan congressional letter “raising concerns and asking questions about a proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.”
The letter, signed by 198 lawmakers and co-authored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the incoming and outgoing chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
While Israel’s detractors have obsessively scrutinized, mischaracterized and demonized the Israeli lobby, the equally powerful Arab lobby has been studiously ignored. In fact, some people deny it exists -- or if it does, that its power pales in contrast to the all-powerful AIPAC. As proof, they often point to the failure to create a Palestinian state. Surely, these critics maintain, if the Arab Lobby is really as powerful as people like me say it is, a Palestinian state would long ago have been established.
My friend Doug Bloomfield, a syndicated columnist and former legislative director of AIPAC, just broke the story of how the Israeli government – and AIPAC – have signed off on a new and staggeringly big sale of U.S. F-15 fighters to Saudi Arabia.
(JTA) -- A Saudi Arabian diplomat based in Los Angeles has requested political asylum because he is gay and close friends with a Jewish woman.
The diplomat was identified Saturday by NBC News as Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. Asseri said he was effectively fired from his position since his diplomatic passport was not renewed by Saudi officials. He told NBC in an email message that he would be killed if he returned to Saudi Arabia.
As a journalist covering the Middle East beat in Washington, I've always wondered about the lack of a strong pro-Arab lobby in Washington. So I'm pretty intrigued with Mitchell Bard's new book, The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East - which argues that I'm wrong, and that there is one.
The real powerhouse Middle East lobby in Washington isn't AIPAC, Bard argues, but a diffuse but potent pro-Arab lobby run and funded by the Saudis.